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Search Like a Google Scientist

Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Have you searched for something in Google today? Odds are, the answer is yes. According to Google, around 25% of the searches we do are for another website. Another 40% are for short factual pieces of information. Google excels at these searches. In fact, it’s so successful that people report in surveys that “everything they want is online” and that if they can’t find it, that must mean that the information doesn’t exist, is too old, or doesn’t have any value. This is a problem because Google doesn’t do such a great job at complex search topics and it’s frequently much harder to find the answers to those types of questions.

What can you do to boost your odds of success when searching Google for complex topics? According to Daniel Russell, a senior research scientist at Google, there are four key steps to follow:

  1. Use the most precise keyword you can find for each concept and use multiple, but still relevant, keywords to cut down on the number of results. For example, don’t just search for “New York” because you could get results about both New York City and New York state.
  2. Consider using different search tools. For example, search engines can now search for images that are similar to photos that you upload.
  3. Learn about the tricks built into your browser. You may know about the Control-F command that lets you search for words on a webpage, but there are others as well.
  4. Use your critical thinking skills. If the answers that you are getting seem unusual or outright wrong, then dig deeper to find other sources to compare those answers too. It’s possible that Google may have misinterpreted your search.

All of these tips also apply to the research databases provided by Dana Medical Library. If you’d like help with your search – regardless of whether it’s a research database like PubMed or Google – please contact a librarian at Dana Medical Library for assistance.